Stephen Fry can be at once hilarious, melodious, and serious. And cheeky. Often cheeky. He has managed to combine all of these qualities together in the book Mythos, with a new U.S. version out today from Chronicle Books (it was previously published in the UK to wide acclaim).
In Mythos, Stephen Fry retells the famous and not-so-famous Greek myths across over 300 pages with his own brand of wit, focusing on the humor of the stories and their relevance to modern day. As he says in the foreword, no prior knowledge of Greek mythology is required to enjoy this book. I concur. Though I have a base knowledge of a few gods and goddesses, and a mortal or two, most of it is long forgotten from my school days. So I found this book to be a completely entertaining refresher, written in plain language with plenty of fun references sprinkled throughout.
Fry tells the stories, but doesn’t explain or analyze them. They stand on their own. You’ll learn that there’s much more to the tale of Sisyphus than pushing (over and over) a rock up a hill. You’ll learn the love story arc of Eros and Psyche. And, you’ll learn in just how many pies Zeus had his thunderbolt. When applicable, Fry also mentions many of the equivalent Roman gods to orient readers, and there’s a helpful index in the back which includes the names of all the book’s gods, goddesses, mortals, places, and events.
In addition to the tales, the book includes images of relevant pieces of art, such as sculptures, reliefs, and paintings; a map; and a couple of basic family trees. But the bulk of the book is Stephen Fry’s illustrative text, written to entertain and inform. You’ll enjoy reading new and familiar tales written in his unique voice.
Though Stephen Fry tells these mythological histories with both style and substance, the family trees don’t include everyone mentioned, and it’s hard to keep it all straight. It helps that the first time important names or terms appear, he writes them in all caps, such as PRIMORDIAL DEITIES and PSYCHE and MELISSA. I find this to be especially helpful, as I often forget what the story is behind the characters, and like to look back at their first mention.
If you ever thought Greek mythology was intimidating, Stephen Fry’s approach will appeal to you, as he explains the myths in casual terms relating them to modern-day people or events (yes, there’s even a reference to Morrissey). There is also plenty of just generally funny commentary that had me laughing out loud and sharing passages with my family.
Note: As with any retellings of Greek mythological stories, some of these stories are NSFW or NSFChildren. Please use your own judgment when sharing these stories with your kids; I recommend you pre-screen them before reading them aloud.
Mythos is available now, in physical book form, on Kindle, or as an audiobook, narrated by Stephen Fry himself, which would certainly be my go-to method of consumption. His voice is lovely. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Greek mythology, either to learn it for the first time, or to be reintroduced to it by someone who is passionate about the subject and an extremely talented storyteller. This book is a joy and Stephen Fry is a treasure.
And, in case you still aren’t convinced, Mythos can help you brush up on your mythology for your next trivia night. Inevitably, there are questions about the Greek gods.
Note: I received a sample copy for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links.